Sunday, August 3, 2014

Beached Whale Euthanized Following Possible Shark Predation Off South Carolina Beach

Pygmy whale euthanized on beach in Hilton Head South Carolina following possible shark predation.
Photo by J. McKoy Lamantia (used with permission).

Pygmy whale beached  on South Carolina beach following
possible shark attack. Photo by M. Higgins (with permission)
A pygmy whale, which had beached itself on Hilton Head Island on Saturday afternoon, was euthanized by authorities later in the evening due to poor health.

Earlier that afternoon a lifeguard with the Hilton Head Beach Patrol reported seeing an unidentified species of shark attacking the whale offshore prior to the whale's beaching.

In an interview with The State newspaper, Wayne McFee, a research wildlife biologist with NOAA's National Oceans Service, stated that the whale appeared sickly adding that "it was emaciated, not in robust healthy condition."

M. Higgins, a passerby who talked to a lifeguard on the scene, was told that the bites appeared to have been made by a shark with 1/2" wide teeth. He was also told that authorities on the scene did not believe that the shark caused the whale's beaching. With that said, in our opinion, even if the whale was heading to shore due to illness or other injuries, the shark's activities may have increased the whale's inclination to beach itself as shark attacks have been considered a factor in some mammal strandings.

The beach was closed for about a half an hour, according to the Island Packet, but was reopened when the shark was no longer observed in the area.

A necropsy will be conducted to determine the cause of death.